"We must keep the most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the most dangerous people" -- George W. Bush
'Peace Week' is a local authority initiative originating in Harringay after 9/11 and now adopted by most London boroughs, with our own borough of Merton taking part for the first time last year. The theme for 2007 is 'Reconciliation -- Celebration -- Collaboration', and the culmination of the week will be a Peace Concert in Trafalgar Square on September 15th. We have timed the showing of two excellent short films in Vestry Hall, Mitcham, to coincide with Peace Week, with the aim of facilitating discussion on some of the very important fundamental issues of peace, war and environmental stewardship.
"War No More" was produced by the Movement for the Abolition of War in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. It explores the idea that wars are not inevitable and that we can take the steps needed to resolve conflict in other ways, and contributors include Martin Bell, Jon Snow, Bruce Kent, Caroline Lucas, Professor Sir Joseph Rotblat and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Sadly, the references to Iraq are as relevant as ever.
"Anthropology 101" is a more recent production and addresses mankind's capacity for self-destruction more widely, taking in climate change as well as mass warfare. The idiocies of 21st century 'civilisation' are revealed by an investigative team of anthropologists from a distant planet. The narrator is Mark Rylance with music by Brian Eno, and although the theme is solemn there are moments of wry humour. "A disturbing and important film, expressing our reliance on strategies and technologies that could literally obliterate the life of the planet" (Anita Roddick).
Please help us to publicise the meeting on September 11th as widely as possible. Display the enclosed flyer or pass it on to a friend. Come and see the films; take part in the discussion.
For other local events see http://www.weekofpeace.org.uk or http://www.merton.gov.uk/leisure/events/weekofpeace.htm
Quakers were sorry there was no CND stall at the Village Fair this year but were excited at the prospect of our participating for the first time. We gave out leaflets and balloons (with the Quaker logo and website and the slogan Quakers for Peace) to passing children and had lots of Quaker books on display. We sold environmentally friendly cotton bags individually adorned and Traidcraft products. We had obtained some very good display boards explaining Quakerism and what Quakers are about, and many people stopped to look at these and were given good explanatory leaflets with plenty of pictures.
The whole experience of the fair was a big learning curve; although the Traidcraft products and the bags sold well, the books we had were irrelevant because it was clear that most of the numerous passers-by had never heard of Quakers before. Now perhaps many will know for the first time that we are an unusual church with pacifist commitments. At least the peace cause was represented at a Fair largely devoted to the sale of goods of all kinds.
Ken, who died recently from cancer, was a lifelong socialist. He worked within the Labour Party and the peace movement, striving to create a better society and to improve conditions for the less fortunate. He took part in many of the London demonstrations and in later years was accompanied by his grandchildren. Like so many other socialists he resigned from the Labour Party over the Iraq war and many of New Labour's policies.
At local level he was a popular and committed governor at Hillcross School for many years and, until his illness prevented him, he continued to visit to hear the younger children read. He was a learned man and after retirement gained a degree in French language and went on to gain a Ph.D.
August Bank Holiday granted us perfect weather for this annual event in Morden Park and we had a happy and productive day, taking £196 on our stall (plants and bric-à-brac) and making many new friends. The team for the day included Sue, Brian and Bob (transport), Maisie, Brigitte, Margaret, Joanna, Helen, Muriel, Edwin and the other Bob! It took five people to erect the gazebo, but once up it stayed up and it looked good with its CND and Peace flags flying bravely in the wind. The money will help pay for hiring the Vestry Hall in September but the networking we do on these occasions is almost more important.
In July 2006 legal experts and civil society representatives met in Brussels to examine the legality of nuclear weapons in depth. The occasion was the tenth anniversary of the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the World Court, on the threat or use of nuclear weapons. The conference developed proposals for action by citizens to uphold the law, calling on diplomats and politicians to honour their 'good faith' obligations.
World Court Project UK, working with the World Court Coalition, has just published "Freedom from Nuclear Weapons" which records the presentation and conclusion of the conference, and outlines a way forward. This includes progress in the ongoing World Court Project campaign to ask the ICJ for another Opinion on the issue of compliance by the nuclear weapons states with their disarmament obligations. Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty says that there is an "obligation to negotiate in good faith for nuclear disarmament". Paragraph F of the final statement of the World Court Opinion of 1996 added the words "and bring to a conclusion these negotiations... in all of its aspects".
Veteran international lawyer Peter Weiss puts the matter in a nutshell: "The principal objective is to get the damn negotiations started. We have a [model] Nuclear Weapons Convention that we can present to the countries if they ever get to that point... a demonstration of the fact that negotiations for nuclear disarmament in all of its aspects are possible... it will give the lie to the point made by diplomats for nuclear weapons states that this is such a complex problem that there's no point in even starting it."
Further information from http://abolition2000europe.org. A copy of the full conference report can be borrowed from Joanna.
Pre-tax profits at BAE last year rose to £657 million (compared to £378m the previous year). According to BAE the "high tempo" of UK and US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan is increasing demand for "land systems" (everything from tanks to munitions) to support armed forces overseas. BAE has now greatly expanded its American operations through a £2·2 billion take-over of US military manufacturer Armor Holdings.
The activist Mark Thomas has put together a comedy benefit night to raise money to support a legal challenge by the Corner House and Campaign Against the Arms Trade against the Serious Fraud Office for their decision to drop investigations into allegations of bribery surrounding BAE Systems' arms deals with Saudi Arabia. The investigation was cancelled following Saudi government threats and intensive lobbying by BAE. The Corner House and CAAT argue that the SFO's decision was unlawful: BAE and the government are not above the law!
Come and enjoy an night of seriously funny comedy, 7·30pm at the Hammersmith Apollo on Sunday 23rd September, Queen Caroline St, London W6 9QH. Performers include Russell Brand, Mark Thomas, Omid Djalili, Mark Steel, Ed Byrne, Josie Long, Robin Ince, Stewart Lee and others to be announced: ticket prices range from £25 to £15 and tickets are available through Ticketmaster (http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk, 0870 606 3400) and Ticketzone (http://www.ticketzone.co.uk, 08700 11 26 26)
Our website http://www.wdc-cnd.org.uk/ is a valuable extra resource for the group and we are grateful to Harriet for setting it up and maintaining it for us. Back copies of this newsletter are available there if you want to look something up (or just browse through our past campaigning history!) There is also background information on many issues which can necessarily only be dealt with briefly in the printed newsletter, and updates on matters which have arisen since publication and suggestions of action.
We should dearly like to improve the website still further by including pictures of our local and national activities, but we do not have access to the appropriate technology. Is there anyone out there with a digital camera and the knowledge and experience to transfer images onto the website? We need your expertise! Please get in touch with Joanna (020 8543 0362).
As so often in the past, Maisie, Helen and Julie gave up part of their holiday at the Sidmouth Folk festival to organise a Hiroshima Day commemorative event, and Maisie has sent the following report:
Some of us at the International Folk Festival at Sidmouth, Devon, organised the almost traditional remembrance event for Hiroshima. The Sidmouth event attracted a record number of people this year, both as audience and in the preparation before August 6th. Friends living in the area worked very hard distributing leaflets and achieving good press publicity; and once the festival started, those of us who attended from Wimbledon & Sutton managed to get announcements made at every concert, dance and other workshop we attended. The result was a diverse attendance of local people, folk enthusiasts and, the highlight of the whole day, members of the Festival Choir led by Sandra Kerr, well-known folk singer, teacher and broadcaster.
People attending were reminded about what happened on 6th August 1945 and on 9th August when the two bombs, named Little Boy and Fat Man, were dropped on the two cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing 200,000 people, most of them civilians. And we were reminded of present-day suffering in the world by Canon David Slater of St.Nicholas-with-St.Giles church in Sidmouth, when he said "Why should we go on remembering Hiroshima in a world that is so filled with tragedy and violence, all calling upon our prayer and giving? ...for the Christian, it is because Jesus has decreed that blessed are the peacemakers!"
Sid Valley CND's representative brought greetings and sang a song, two poems were read, and then Sandra Kerr turned the whole event into a large choir, teaching us peace songs then conducting a mini-performance which attracted the attention of others who were not at first part of the event. We stood for one minute's silence, distributed the leaflets about the cost of Trident and renewed our pledge to work for peace in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and other areas of conflict.